Tuesday, January 31, 2012

3,000mw Power Plant : Nepal offers partnership

Seeks transit from Mongla Port.

Nepal yesterday proposed setting up a 3,000-megawatt power plant in a joint venture with Bangladesh and also sought transit from Mongla port to Banglabandha land port in Panchagarh district. 

Nepalese Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun made the proposal at a meeting with Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the latter's secretariat office. 

After the meeting, Muhith told reporters that Nepal wanted to export power to Bangladesh, but for that, Dhaka would need to be an equity partner in a joint-venture plant in the Himalayan country. 

Nepal has huge resources for hydropower, but its potentials remain untapped for lack of investment, Muhith observed.

The Bangladesh government has also been thinking of setting up joint-venture power plants in Bhutan. 

Apart from power projects, yesterday's meeting focused on the issue of transit to India, Nepal and Bhutan.
The finance minister said Kathmandu had requested Dhaka to allow its trucks to ply between Banglabandha and Mongla. Currently, trucks from Nepal are allowed to travel up to 200 kilometres inside Bangladesh.

Last month, a core committee formed to make recommendations on the transit issue submitted its report to the commerce ministry. The three neighbouring countries to be given the facility will be charged a flat-rate transit fee on the basis of recommendations made in the report, Muhith said.

He added that some concessions might be offered to low-income countries.

The core committee's report will be sent to the three countries and transit fees and other issues will be settled through discussions with them.

Muhith also said the tenure of a water transit protocol signed with India would expire in March and Bangladesh would try to finalise the transit fees before that. Otherwise, the protocol's tenure will be extended as per the previous terms. 

However, the transit fees that Bangladesh charges India now will be increased.

Muhith said there was no bar to giving India transit through Ashuganj but infrastructure should be improved for that. 

The Nepalese finance minister came to Dhaka on January 29 to attend the Saarc finance ministers' meeting.

Tipaimukh hasn't started yet: FM

The foreign minister on Monday told parliament that India's proposed Tipaimukh project has no water diversion system and it would only be constructed to produce hydroelectricity and control flooding.

During a question-answer session Dipu Moni said India had informed Dhaka that the project's work was yet to begin.

Moni replied when Sunamganj-3 MP M A Mannan asked the minister when 'the construction of the dam' began and inquired about the present situation of the Tipaimukh project.

The minister replied that India was yet to start the project.

"The Manipur state government recently signed a promoter's agreement with state-owned NHPC Limited and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVN) for setting up a joint venture company (JVC)," Dipu Moni said in reply.

She added that recurrence of flood in the Indian state of Assam caused by the overflowing of Barak River and its tributaries often caused grave damage during the rainy season.

"India conducted a survey to build a dam on the Barak to protect the area from flooding," she said.

Following the first Bangladesh-India Joint Commission meeting on June 25-26, 1972, a survey team was formed to inquire about the flood condition in Bangladesh's Sylhet and Kachhar district in Assam.

Later, India informed Bangladesh of building Tipaimukh dam after the 14th joint river commission meeting in 1978.

Parties at the talks decided that engineers from both the countries would submit a progress report in the next commission meeting after evaluating various aspects and consequences of the project on the Barak River.

Dipu Moni also pointed out that a team headed by the chairman of parliamentary standing committee on water resources ministry had visited the project area in India on Aug 4, 2009.

"The team did not notice any sign of dam construction while visiting the location from above," she said.

The minister also quoted diplomatic sources from India on May 21 the same year and said, "The Indian authorities have informed us that the proposed project area lacks any irrigation component and will 'only' be built to produce hydroelectricity and provide protection from floods."

Replying to a query from Kurigram-3 MP AKM Maidul Islam, the foreign minister said China has not officially proposed to undertake any project to divert the course of Brahmaputra River.

She said: "A proposal has been tabled after a joint discussion between China, India and Bangladesh regarding the issue."

Replying to another query from Comilla-8 MP Nasimul Alam, Dipu Moni said separate labour wings are currently functioning at 17 Bangladesh missions abroad.

"About 1.5 million Bangladeshi expatriates were able to go abroad with job opportunities during the three years of the incumbent government," the foreign minister said.

Parliament began its 12th session on Jan 25 in the absence of the BNP, the chief opposition. 

Call to disclose military court records

Relatives of death convicts and human-rights activists have demanded that confidential records of all military trials be flung out in the open for public view to dispel misgivings.

Former ambassadors, civil servants and a retired Supreme Court judge have rallied behind the call.

In the context of the recent developments in the army and its rare admission of a coup plot, they suggest that declassification of the old secret documents could do away with the general confusion among the citizens.

President of the Dhaka University Teachers' Association, Dr Anwar Hossain, told, "All proceedings of controversial courts martial to have taken place in Bangladesh should be declassified."

A younger brother of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal leader Col Mohammed Abu Taher who was summarily executed in a secret trial by a special military tribunal during the 1976 army regime, Hossain said, "The records and papers of that farcical trial have not yet been given to the court even though a [High Court] order is there."

Col Taher hanged on July 21 that year, a few years after he retired from active military service. Commander of the Sector 11 during the nation's war of independence from Pakistan, he and 32 others were charged with mutiny and treason. Anwar Hossain was one of those accused.

When it was pointed to him that the law in question had safeguards against making public such documents that could compromise national security, Hossain said, "At least the next of kin of those who were sentenced in court martial should be allowed to know what their offences were."

The execution of Col Taher in 1976 under the then chief martial law administrator, Gen Ziaur Rahman, was described by the High Court in a verdict on March 23 last year as "a cold-blooded murder".

Sultana Kamal, head of the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International's Bangladesh chapter, said, "The records [of courts martial] can be made public through the Right to Information Act."

"People will never get to know the truth unless these documents are made public," said the executive director of Ain O Salish Kendra, an NGO that provides legal aid and advocates human rights.

"Once declassified, the people would know the trend of our history, how democracy was choked in the past," remarked the long-time human rights activist.

Justice Golam Rabbani was on the same wavelength, saying that the right to information act was sufficient enough for disclosure of a preposterous trial like that of Col Taher.

"In my opinion, MPs can bring a bill to this effect in parliament," said the former judge regarding systematic declassification of secret documents.

"No matter during which regime or tenure but trial proceedings of courts martial like that of Col Taher should be disclosed."

Rabbani said the truth must be made public and the public has all the right to know the facts. "The refusal to declassify such secret documents citing national security was merely a hoax. These excuses are nothing but cheating with the people."

A former adviser to the caretaker government, Akbar Ali Khan said "sooner or later" these records would certainly have to be made public.

"But some countries take longer to do that (make them public), while some others take less," added the retired career civil servant who was a Cabinet Division secretary.

"If needed the state could take such a decision."

Records of some of the trial proceedings should be declassified, said former ambassador Syed Waliur Rahman. He drew the example of the 'farcical' trial of Colonel Taher.

Rahman said that the United States declassifies its secret documents after a lapse of 30 years and they are then kept in the Library of Congress for the public to see. Britain declassifies its documents after 28 years.

It has been 30 years since some courts martial were conducted during the regime of military strongman General Ziaur Rahman.

Waliur Rahman said numerous officers had been executed through military trials during Gen Zia's tenure. "Can't we get those records? Can't we discuss those deaths?"

British journalist Anthony Mascarenhas wrote in his authoritative book, 'Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood', that Ziaur Rahman's five-and-a-half-year tenure saw over 20 revolt, coup attempts which triggered a number of courts martial.

After Zia's assassination in a successful military coup, 13 officers were hanged but their records of their trials are yet to be disclosed to the public. 

Chilling tape from Air Force One on day JFK shot

It's been nearly a half-century since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

But new information from that day in Dallas has just been released -- audiotape of conversations between Air Force One and Washington.

For the first time, the complete audio record of the flight back from Dallas to Washington is available to the public online, from the National Archives, for free.

It helps to fill in the record of that day of sorrow, confusion and fear.

"Gonna put Mrs. Rose Kennedy on the line now," one voice can be heard saying.

Lyndon Johnson, newly sworn-in as president of the United States, and his wife, Ladybird, attempted to console President Kennedy's mother.

"I wish to God," Lyndon Johnson said, "there was something that I could do. And I wanted to tell you that we are grieving with you."

"Thank you very much," Rose Kennedy responded. "Thank you very much. I know you loved Jack. And he loved you."

"Mrs. Kennedy," Ladybird said, "We just wanted to -- we feel like we've lost..."

"Thank you very much," Rose Kennedy repeated." Then, goodbyes all-around.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk and other cabinet members were over the Pacific in an aircraft code-named Wayside. They had just turned back from a trip to Asia when the White House confirmed their worst fears.

"This is the (White House) Situation Room. Relay following to Wayside. We have report quoting that the president is dead, that he died about 35 minutes ago."

The full audio of transmissions from White House Communications Agency (which captured the tapes) that day includes 42 minutes edited out of the original public version. It's likely to peak the interest of conspiracy theorists who are already asking why this material was cut out of the original. 

Then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Curtis LeMay had been a frequent opponent of Kennedy's. His whereabouts on the day of the assassination has always been a mystery. 

In the newly public audio, we learn that LeMay was airborne, even as JFK's body was being flown back to Washington. And an aide to LeMay tried urgently to reach his boss.

"General LeMay," the aide said, "is in a C 140. ... He's inbound. His code name is Grandson. And I wanna talk to him. ... If you can't work him now, it's gonna be too late, because he'll be on the ground in a half-hour."
Historian Robert Dallek suggests doubters will wonder if the aide's comments about not reaching LeMay within 30 minutes may be "too late" could have some sinister meaning. "I'd doubt these tapes will put the conspiracy theory to rest," he says. "They continue to believe it was a conspiracy and again, they just can't accept the proposition that a lone wolf, a single, and someone as dysfunctional as Lee Harvey Oswald, could have carried off this assassination of the president."

At the end of that fateful day, the body of the fallen president arrived in Washington -- and the new president made a promise to the nation.

"I will do my best," Johnson said, "That is all I can do. I ask for your help and God's."

The complete audio record of the flight back to Washington was lost for years until the estate of JFK's top military aide, Army Gen. Chester "Ted" Clifton Jr., sold his copy of the tapes to The Raab Collection, historical document dealers, which gave a copy of the audio to the National Archives.

Tk 10,000 Doel laptops off

The government has temporarily stopped the assembly and marketing of Tk 10,000 Doel laptops.

Telecommunications minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju told parliament on Tuesday that the step had been advised by an expert committee.

In reply to a question, the minister said the committee that had been formed to study the mass production and marketing of the laptops had asked that the Tk 10,000 Doel-2012 models be temporarily taken off production.

A handful of them had been distributed after prime minister Sheikh Hasina launched the brand last year, he said.

The prime minister launched the distribution and marketing of Doel on Oct 11 last year, the first laptop manufactured in the country.

The low-priced laptops with four models are priced between Tk 10,000 and Tk 26,000.

Raju said the ministry was considering launching a tablet PC assembly under Telephone Shilpa Sangstha soon. 

Romney looks for win in Florida

Floridians are set to vote in the state's Republican primary as rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich look to capitalise on earlier wins.

Romney has surged ahead in the Florida polls, ahead of Gingrich by 15% in the most recent survey.

The other hopefuls, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, have abandoned campaigning in Florida, making it in effect a race between two candidates.

Latinos and retired voters make up key voting blocs in the state.

Both Romney and Gingrich are looking for increased momentum after early primaries split wins among three different candidates.

Polling stations will be open from 0700 to 1900 (1200-0000 GMT). Early voting has been allowed for the past 10 days, and it is estimated that 600,000 people have already voted.

Republicans are vying to oust Barack Obama from the White House in November.

Primaries and caucuses will be held in every US state to pick a Republican candidate until the eventual winner is crowned at the party's convention in August.

Gingrich scored a resounding victory in South Carolina's primary earlier this month, but his momentum has since been stymied in the face of a Romney fightback.

Both candidates crisscrossed Florida on Monday in a final hunt for votes.

"My goal would be by the end of that first day, about the time that President Obama arrives back in Chicago, that we will have dismantled about 40% of his government," Gingrich told voters in Jacksonville, Florida as part of his stump speech.

Romney finished his day of campaigning at The Villages, a retirement community that has become a popular political stop.

The former Massachusetts governor had attacked Gingrich throughout last week but spent most of the rally focusing on Obama.

Reagan's son campaigns

Several surveys released on Sunday gave Romney a lead of between five and 16 points.

But Gingrich vowed to continue his campaign in the Sunshine State and beyond, attacking Romney's conservative credentials.

"On big philosophical issues, he is for all practical purposes a liberal and I am a conservative and that's what this fight is going to be about all the way to the convention," he told CBS News on Monday.

At least 1,114 delegates are needed to win the Republican nomination at the August convention. In Florida, there are 50 delegates are at stake.

"This race is just getting started," Martin Baker, Gingrich's national political director, told reporters, saying there was "a long way to go" before the nomination was decided.

The former House speaker also campaigned with former President Ronald Reagan's son Michael on Monday, hoping to strengthen his campaign's ties to the revered Republican leader's legacy.

States in which the electorate is relatively evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, making them targets for aggressive campaigning by both sides. In recent elections, the most important swing states were Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those have a high number of electoral votes, making them prime battlegrounds during the election. The list of swing states changes with their demographics. In the 2008 election, for instance, historically Republican Virginia and North Carolina voted for Barack Obama, anticipating their status as hard-fought swing states in 2012. Others that were close in previous elections, like Iowa and New Mexico, appear to be solidly Democratic. 

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum left Florida over the weekend to be at the hospital bedside of his three-year-old daughter, who has a rare genetic condition.

Rather than return to Florida, he will campaign in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Nevada over the next two days.

Libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul, meanwhile, is already focusing on Nevada.

Gingrich picked up the endorsement on Saturday night of former rival Herman Cain, who dropped out of the Republican race in December.

The former House speaker is portraying himself as the only viable conservative in the race.

Romney has struggled to dispel misgivings among some Republicans about his political record as governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts and his Mormon faith.

In the past, Romney has adopted a pro-choice stance on abortion, switched positions on gay rights and pushed through a healthcare reform in Massachusetts that was the template for President Obama's overhaul of the system nationally.

The next contest after Florida will be Nevada on Saturday.

Is the Earth getting lighter?

The recent crash landing of Russian spacecraft Phobos-Grunt has focused attention on the increasing amount of space junk orbiting the planet. So does this mean the Earth has been getting lighter? The BBC's Radio 4 programme More or Less turned to a group of Cambridge University academics for the answer.

There are factors that are causing Earth to both gain and lose mass over time, according to Dr Chris Smith, a medical microbiologist and broadcaster who tries to improve the public understanding of science.

Using some back-of-the-envelope-style calculations, Dr Smith, with help from physicist and Cambridge University colleague Dave Ansell, drew up a balance sheet of what's coming in, and what's going out. All figures are estimated.

By far the biggest contributor to the world's mass is the 40,000 tonnes of dust that is falling from space to Earth, says Dr Smith.

"[The dust] is basically the vestiges of the solar system that spawned us, either asteroids that broke up or things that never formed into a planet, and it's drifting around.

"The Earth is acting like a giant vacuum cleaner powered by gravity in space, pulling in particles of dust," says Dr Smith.

Another much less significant reason the planet is gaining mass is because of global warming.

"Nasa has calculated that the Earth is gaining about 160 tonnes a year because the temperature of the Earth is going up. If we are adding energy to the system, the mass must go up," says Dr Smith, referring to Einstein's equation that energy equals mass times the speed of light.

This means that in total between 40,000 and 41,000 tonnes is being added to the mass of the planet each year.

But overall, Dr Smith has calculated that the Earth - including the sea and the atmosphere - is losing mass. He points to a handful of reasons.

For instance, the Earth's core is like a giant nuclear reactor that is gradually losing energy over time, and that loss in energy translates into a loss of mass.

But this is a tiny amount - he estimates no more than 16 tonnes a year.

And what about launching rockets and satellites into space, like Phobos-Grunt? Dr Smith discounts this as most of it will fall back down to Earth again.

But there is something else that is making the planet lose mass. Gases such as hydrogen are so light, they are escaping from the atmosphere.

"Physicists have shown that the Earth is losing about three kilograms of hydrogen gas every second. It's about 95,000 tonnes of hydrogen that the planet is losing every year.

"The other very light gas this is happening to is helium and there is much less of that around, so it's about 1,600 tonnes a year of helium that we lose."

So taking into account the gains and the losses, Dr Smith reckons the Earth is getting about 50,000 tonnes lighter a year, which is just less than half the weight of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise liner, that ran aground recently.

Charges against Kamaruzzaman accepted

The International Crimes Tribunal accepted the crimes against humanity charges against Jamaat Leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman on Tuesday.

The three-judge tribunal headed by its Chairman Justice Nizamul Huq also fixed February 29 for hearing on the charge framing against Kamaruzzaman, who is charged with nine counts of crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 Liberation War.

The tribunal asked the prosecution to submit copies of the formal charges against Kamaruzzaman and other relevant documents to the tribunal’s registrar by February 6.

The defence should collect the copies from the registrar office on February 7, the tribunal said.

The prosecution on January 15 submitted the charges against the Jamaat assistant secretary general before the tribunal, which later fixed January 31 (today) to pass an order whether it will take the charges against Kamaruzzaman into cognisance. 

Earlier on December 28 last year, the tribunal sent the formal charges against Kamaruzzaman back to the prosecution as the charges were not classified and organised properly.

Bangladeshi to lead UN peacebuilding commission

Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Dr AK Abdul Momen, will lead the UN Peacebuilding Commission for the next one year.

The prestigious election, which is first for the country, came on Monday.

Upon his election, the new chairman pledged that he would pursue “the path of inclusion” throughout 2012 to enhance the six-year-old body’s ability to mobilise resources and align key actors in assisting the populations of countries emerging from conflict.

“The commission is heading forward, but we have yet to reach our destination,” a press statement posted on the website of the UN Peacebuilding Commission quotes Momen as saying. 

He acknowledged that while the multi-stakeholder body had charted solid successes since its establishment in 2005, countless post-conflict societies were still bogged down by social, economic and governance challenges. 

Indeed, since no fragile or conflict-affected country had achieved a single Millennium Development Goal, it was clear that much remained to be done, he added.

While aware that such situations could not be reversed overnight, Momen said under his chairmanship, the commission would work to bolster its “field-centric” approach to mobilising resources, while encouraging flexible and adaptable instruments of post-conflict engagement. 

Grounded in national ownership, local capacity-building and the gender dimension, the commission would target employment generation, infrastructure development and the management of natural resources – sectors considered key to speeding the delivery of peace dividends.

Momen said he would also work throughout the year to bring global and regional stakeholders together for a more coherent approach to achieving the objective of sustainable peacebuilding. 

He would “narrow gaps” and promote better coordinated responses with the aim of improving the way in which the commission did business so that it could take the global peacebuilding agenda forward.

Momen’s address set the stage for the opening of the commission’s sixth session, during which its Organizational Committee also elected Ranko Vilović ( Croatia) as Vice-Chair. Looking ahead to 2013, the commission also decided that its next chairperson would be elected from among the Group of Eastern European States. 

The remaining vice-chair, as well as the heads of the commission’s country-specific configurations, would be elected at a later date.

Adopting its 2011 report, the commission also approved a “road map of actions for 2012”, proposed by its previous chairman.

Siddika Kabir passes away

Siddika Kabir, a noted nutrition expert and culinary artist, died at a city hospital on Tuesday, Independent TV reports.

A famous TV face who used to run the show ‘Siddika Kabir’s Recipe’, Prof Kabir was 80. 

She also worked as the consultant of consumer brands Dano, Nestlé and Radhuni.

In 1966, Siddika started attending different cookery shows on television. She authored a number of recipe books to her credit and was recognised with different awards.

Obtaining a higher degree in food nutrition and institutional administration from the United States, she joined the nutrition department of Home Economics College.

Born in 1931, Prof Kabir had a bright academic life. She started her career in teaching profession by joining mathematics department of Eden Girls’ College in 1957.

Monday, January 30, 2012

On transit, Dhaka set to go by GATT

Bangladesh will not impose any transit fees on India and will rather collect all charges permitted under GATT, a prime minister's advisor said on Monday.

"There is no such term (as) transit fee in 'books', and the government should strictly follow the principles laid down in GATT and transport economics," Mashiur Rahman, who advises prime minister Sheikh Hasina on economic affairs, told

"We will evaluate all admissible charges stipulated in GATT and add up all charges to fix a single figure," he said. "Our plan is to make a transit deal with India following international practice to fix admissible charges stipulated in GATT."

He said the amount would be linked with the volume of cargo and long-term business prospect.

"If the government can assure that India can enjoy the service for long-term with quality service ensured, the amount will be higher," he explained.

Rahman, however, had said at a seminar in October last year that transit and transshipment fee would be fixed in the next renewal meeting of protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, to be held before this March 31.

Transit has become a thorny issue between Dhaka and Delhi, especially after the neighbouring countries failed to strike an interim Teesta deal during Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's Dhaka visit last September.


On Monday, advisor Mashiur Rahman said it would be inefficient for Bangladesh to charge Indian cargoes on a per-tonne-per-kilometre basis. He said the country should rather charge a lump sum amount.

"When determining the lump sum figure, all admissible charges allowed by GATT will be taken into consideration," he explained.

"We have to evaluate efficiency of operations, stability of the friendly Bangladesh-Indian regimes, conformity of GATT principles and transport economics before taking any transit decision."

About the Jan 28 meeting at the Indian prime minister's office, where it was decided to 'consider providing additional money, if need be, to ensure night navigation facilities on Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route', Rahman remarked, "Why should we say no if they want to give us more money?"

India pays Bangladesh Tk 55 million each year to maintain navigability of transit routes.

The meeting also decided that the Indian foreign ministry would try to extend the period of Inland Trade and Transit Protocol beyond March 2012, when it comes for renewal to provide longer certainty to vessel operators, according to a media release of the Indian PMO.

"Further efforts shall be made for early completion of Ashuganj multi-modal port by Bangladesh and its regular use as a transit port," the release said.

Dhaka signed protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (IWTT) in New Delhi in 1972. As per the protocol, Indian cargoes can travel from one part of the country to another through Bangladesh.


Rahman said the shipping ministry is negotiating with its counterpart to renew the IWTT protocol. The ministry, he said, would consult the core committee's report before taking any decision.

The core committee on transit formed by the government has submitted its final report.

Asked about regular transit movement, he said it was never stopped. "There were several trial runs on multi-modal transit but now there is no barrier to regular movement."

The first commercial transshipment under trial run was held through Ashuganj port on Sept 28 last year. 

Irate ICT adjourns proceedings

A stumbling prosecution lost in its own documents prompted an irate war crimes tribunal to adjourn the proceedings for the day soon after it returned from a half-hour recess on Monday.

Earlier, the International Crimes Tribunal, set up to try crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War, was adjourned for half-an-hour, with the prosecution directed to organise its documentation.

The tribunal was expected to hear deposition of witnesses in a case against Jamaat-e-Islami executive council member Delwar Hossain Sayedee.

Sayedee has been indicted on 20 counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, arson and loot.

According to the prosecution, Mohammad Ezabuddin Miah, 39, an assistant librarian of Bangla Academy, was to have confirmed for it the seizure of several exhibits regarding the case.

However, even post-recess, the prosecution faced the same problems as it had before the adjournment. While the prosecutor appeared to be utterly lost in the pages of his own volume, the defence lawyers proceeded to help the tribunal, even suggesting where the court should be looking.

At one stage, addressing the prosecution, Judge A K M Zaheer Ahmed commented, "The defence is helping us!"

When prosecutor Saidur Rahman referred to another page for marking exhibits seized on a certain date, tribunal chairman Nizamul Huq found that his volume did not correspond with that referred by the prosecutor.

Justice Huq then turned a few more pages, going back and forth, as senior prosecution counsel Syed Haider Ali had suggested before the recess, but failed to find the seizure list.

Addressing Saidur Rahman, Justice Huq asked, "Did you see if the pages matched?"

As Saidur Rahman replied he had, Huq gave his volume to a bench officer who handed it to the prosecutor. The judge said, "Show me."

Saidur Rahman had referred to page 3,264 but that page had an article of the daily 'Azad' in the volume that Huq was provided with. The prosecutor appeared flustered and hurried back to his senior colleague Syed Haider Ali, who, for his part, failed to make much headway with the document.

Syed Haider then called for an end to witness testimony for the day and marking of exhibits.

The defence cross-examination was brief.

Counsel Mizanul Islam asked Bangla Academy staffer Ezabuddin to confirm the headline of one report dated May 8, 1971 which said: "Pirojpur Mahakuma Peace Committee formed", which Ezabuddin confirmed.

He also confirmed, upon the defence counsel's query, that news items seized from him were dated approximately 1970-72, from around the time of the Liberation War, and none of their headlines mentioned Sayedee's name.

Shortly afterwards, the proceedings came to a close as prosecution's next witness, Madhusudan Gharami, was not allowed by his physician to testify, owing to his physical condition.

Haider Ali submitted that he was hopeful of producing the witness on Tuesday.

The court then adjourned for the day, almost 30 minutes before the scheduled time for lunch recess.


Earlier, Ezabuddin's testimony in the morning was interrupted several times as the volumes of documents provided to the tribunal and Sayedee's defence team did not correspond with that of the prosecution. The prosecution counsels were able to locate the right page for the first exhibit after a considerable time, much to the annoyance of tribunal chairman Huq.

Once the tribunal had located the seizure records of an issue of 'Azad' dated February 3, 1972, tribunal member Judge A K M Zaheer Ahmed asked prosecutor Saidur Rahman whether the other exhibits were in order.

"How many exhibits do you have for this witness?" he asked, to be told that there were seven.

This drew a wry response from the judge: "Is it going to be like this for all of them? For one, we can take this trouble but this cannot be the case for every exhibit."

Huq said the copy provided to him was the original and therefore the other copies had to correspond with that.

However, the second exhibit proved to be more elusive than the first. While the tribunal chief could locate the document in his volume in one page, the defence said they could not locate it all, and the only record regarding that article was one of custody but not seizure.

Zaheer Ahmed's copy was also incomplete. "It may be acceptable if my copy is not in order but you must make sure the defence has a proper set," he told the prosecutors-in-general.

Saidur Rahman kept going back and forth from the witness stand to his podium, checking his volume, while the investigation officer went to the bench officers in a bid to locate the right page for the judges.

Prosecutor Haider Ali's arrival hardly helped the matters.

At one point, Haider Ali, investigation officer of the case Mohammad Helaluddin and prosecutor Saidur Rahman huddled together at the podium, seemingly at a loss over what to do.

This again drew a comment from tribunal chief Huq: "Mr Haider Ali, what can be done?"

Haider Ali suggested that they try looking for the specific record one or two pages before or after the page that the prosecution was referring to. At this, Huq retorted that this could be acceptable only as an exception but not for so many exhibits.

Justice Huq then adjourned the proceedings for half-an-hour, directing the prosecution to get their documents in order for all exhibits it wanted to have marked on the day.

Defence counsel Mizanul Islam, meanwhile, appealed to the court that the prosecution be also directed to provide with copies of the missing documents.

"Of course! That is what I meant by getting the documents in order," said Huq.

He, however, reminded the defence team that this was only the first case and hence could naturally be faced with certain difficulties and slips from all sides.


Earlier in the day, the proceedings began with an application from the defence counsels pleading for privileged communication with Jamaat guru and former party chief Ghulam Azam, who was denied bail and sent to jail on January 11.

The tribunal granted the plea fixing Feb 4, Feb 11 and Feb 18. The court said two of the three counsels mentioned in the application would be allowed to meet the former Jamaat chief on those days.

According to the prosecution, Azam was instrumental in mobilising the party and several other organisations — such as the Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams — to thwart and oppose the liberation efforts in 1971.

Huq exclaimed at not finding the usual names on the list of three counsels who would meet Ghulam Azam. "No Razzaqs or Tajuls?" asked the tribunal chief, looking at M Tajul Islam, who was present briefly.

Sayedee's case is the first one to proceed to the trial stage at the tribunal. On September 4, the prosecution proposed framing of charges against him on 31 counts for crimes against humanity and genocide. On October 3, the tribunal indicted Sayedee on 20 counts.

The tribunal also sent Jamaat's former chief Ghulam Azam to jail on January 11. His indictment hearing, as well as that of the present Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, is scheduled for February 15.

Besides Sayedee, Jamaat chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed and assistant secretaries general Mohammad Kamaruzzaman and Abdul Quader Molla, and Bangladesh Nationalist Party's standing committee member and MP Salauddin Quader Chowdhury have been detained on war crimes charges.

The tribunal granted conditional bail to former BNP lawmaker and minister Abdul Alim on March 31, 2011. The bail was further extended on January 16, ordering him to be present in the court on March 15 when the prosecution has been directed to submit formal charges against the BNP leader. 

Nigeria's Boko Haram suspected in Kano police attack

Two civilians have died in an attack on a police station in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, police say.

A BBC correspondent says that gunmen stormed the station, throwing explosives and an hour-long shoot-out ensued.

The gunmen are suspected to be Islamist militants from Boko Haram, which recently carried out multiple bomb attacks in Kano, killing 185 people.

Police also say they shot at a bus near another police post on Monday.

There are no details of casualties in this early morning incident, which occurred near the same police station in the city's Mandawari area where an officer was killed on Friday night in another suspected Boko Haram attack.

The BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar in Kano says the Sunday evening attack on a police station in the Naibawa district, on the outskirts of Kano, happened just before the start of the dusk-to-dawn curfew.

"We are scared. The police and Boko Haram members are battling each other and there is gunfire everywhere," local resident Usman Ibrahim Bello told the Reuters news agency.

The curfew was imposed after the 20 January bombings - the most deadly since Boko Haram began its campaign of violence in 2009.

On Saturday, a Boko Haram spokesman rejected Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's recent call for open dialogue to end the conflict.

He said it was "impossible" to hold talks, after police said they had killed 11 militants in the group's base in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri over the weekend.

He also warned that if group members who had been captured in the north-western Sokoto state were not released, Kano-style attacks would be launched there. 

Boko Haram - whose name means "Western education is forbidden" - wants to establish Islamic law in Nigeria. 

It stepped up its attacks in 2011, targeting police headquarters and the UN in the capital Abuja.

In recent weeks, southerners, who are mostly Christians or animists, living in the north have been the targets of deadly attacks and thousands have fled their homes.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation is roughly evening divided between the mainly Muslim north and the south.

South Sudan: Cattle raid in Warrap state 'kills 40'

At least 40 people have been killed by armed gunmen in a cattle raid in South Sudan, officials say.

Some reports say as many as 100 people could have been killed in the attack on a camp in Warrap state.

South Sudan's interior minister accused the Sudanese government in Khartoum of arming the attackers, a militia group from neighbouring Unity State.

Tensions remain high since South Sudan seceded peacefully from Sudan in July after decades of war.

Cattle play a vital role in the lives of many South Sudanese communities. Hundreds of people have been killed in a series of tit-for-tat cattle raids in Jonglei state in recent weeks.

An official in Warrap state told the Paris-based Sudan Tribune newspaper that villages belonging to the Luac Jang ethnic group in Tong East county came under attack early on Saturday.

Madot Dut Deng, speaker of the state assembly, said he had been told by officials that more than 76 people had been killed, with several unaccounted for.

Another state official told the newspaper that local people spoke of as many as 100 people killed.

Local MP Mayiik Ayii told the BBC he had been told many children were among the dead. 

Interior Minister Alison Manani Magaya said the attack was carried out by a militia group from neighbouring Unity state, the AFP news agency reports.

"This militia group was armed by the government of Khartoum," he said, but could not name the specific group responsible.

"The number of wounded is still not clear, but they took a lot of cattle with them," he added.
Sudan has denied similar accusations in the past.

Mr Ayii said that the area which was attacked had been disarmed, leaving it vulnerable to attack by rival groups.

'Critical point'
South Sudan became independent on 9 July 2011 following decades of civil war with the north.

One legacy of the conflict is that the region is still flooded with weapons, another is the lack of roads, making it difficult for the security forces to intervene.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan to reach agreement on how to divide up their oil wealth, a key source of tension between the two. 

"The situation in Sudan and South Sudan has reached a critical point. It has become a major threat to peace and security across the region," Mr Ban said in a speech to an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

South Sudan has stopped pumping oil after Sudan confiscated shipments, saying it had not been paid for transit fees.

Sudan lost most of its oil when the south became independent but the pipelines run through Sudan to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Rally off, Khaleda seeks return of CG system

BNP chief Khaleda Zia on Monday reiterated her party's stance of not taking part in any national elections under a government led by a political party.

Calling for reinstatement of the caretaker government during her brief address to members and supporters of the opposition platform, Khaleda set off for her first mass procession since the Awami League-led 14-party coalition took office in 2009.

Beginning around 4.15pm from the party's headquarter in Naya Paltan, the procession is set to cover Kakrail, Shantinagar, Malibagh and Mouchak before finishing at Moghbazar.

"There will be no elections without a caretaker government. The BNP will not participate (in polls not held under a caretaker government," Khaleda Zia said.

Khaleda reached the party's Naya Paltan headquarters from her Gulshan office around 3:30pm.

She had earlier declared plans to hold this countrywide public procession on Jan 29. But the programme was postponed for a day after Dhaka metropolitan unit of Awami League also called for a rally the same day and the police imposed Section 144, banning all gatherings in the capital on Sunday apprehending law and order crisis.

The opposition party's processions in other metropolitan cities, including Chittagong, Rajshahi and Barisal, were also postponed after the police there imposed similar restrictions.

Metropolitan BNP member-secretary Abdus Salam said that despite various 'hurdles', the party and members of its associate organisations from all wards in the capital have joined the programme.

The police stopped traffic on one side of Naya Paltan road from around noon on Monday after BNP activists started gathering at the venue.

Within an hour, the stretch between Nightingale Restaurant intersection and Fakirapul's AGB Colony road was filled with activists dressed in bright colours, and carrying festoons and effigies of BNP founder Ziaur Rahman, his wife and party chief Khaleda Zia, and their son and BNP senior vice-president Tarique Rahman.

Members of the four-party opposition coalition and other like-minded parties are also participating in the procession.

Meanwhile, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has reportedly deployed an additional 5,000 law enforcers in the capital, equipped with water canons and riot cars to tackle any untoward incident sparked by the mass procession.

A large number of police officials have been deployed along the procession route at Naya Paltan, Khilgaon, Matijheel, Bijoy Nagar, Kakrail, Shantinagar, Malibagh, Moghbazar. Additional police members were placed in front of the BNP headquarters since 8:30am on Monday.

Additional deputy police commissioner Mehedi Hasan told that the police have taken all necessary preparations to ensure security. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shibir 'pull down' Shahid Minar wall

Activists of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, have allegedly torn down the newly constructed security wall of the Shahid Minar at Rangpur Carmichael College.

Principal of the college Dwipakendra Nath Das said the Shibir supporters did this early on Sunday morning. Construction of the boundary wall had commenced on Thursday.

Kotwali police station officer-in-charge Altaf Hossain told that the principal filed a case accusing some unnamed Shibir activists in this connection.

President of the organisation's college unit 'Palash' had warned him on mobile phone Saturday night not to erect the 200-metre long wall as their camp, called Shibir or tent, is beside the wall, Das said.

"He had also threatened that the wall will be crushed if his warning is not heeded," he added.

"They are giving me death threats since the filing of the case," the principal said and alleged that his request for police deployment has been ignored.

The deputy inspector general (DIG) of Rangpur police range Binoy Krishna Bala ordered the district police superintendent (SP) Saleh Mohammad Tanveer to ensure security and safety of students as well as the principal after he had informed him about the threats, Das said.

"The Shibir activists are still roaming around freely," he said.

The SP acknowledged the order but denied the allegation. "We have never said that we would not deploy forces. We will send the forces at the earliest."

Pro-government student organisation Bangladesh Chhatra League's Rangpur city unit and general students have taken out procession on the college campus protesting against the demolition.

The protesters held a meeting after the procession and declared a ban on political activities of Shibir on the campus. 

3 killed as police fire on BNP men

A Jubo Dal activist and two rickshawpullers were killed in Laxmipur and Chandpur towns Sunday as police opened fire to disperse activists of BNP and its front organisations while they attempted to bring out previously-scheduled processions.

The angry activists of Chandpur kept the law enforcers confined for two hours as the violence ended at 1:00pm, leaving over 100 injured. 

Over 250 people including 80 policemen were injured when the law enforcers attempted to foil processions of opposition activists in Dinajpur, Kurigram, Rangamati, Bandarban and Bagerhat. Police picked up a number of opposition activists from different districts during the clashes.

Local administration imposed ban on all kinds of rallies and processions in Bogra and Sirajganj town for Sunday amid fears of a deterioration in law and order.

Violence in Chandpur ensued at 11:00am when police asked the opposition activists, who were gathering at Hasan Ali Govt High School ground to bring out a protest procession, to leave the place. 

“Without listening to us, they (opposition activists) started hurling brickbats,” Alamgir Hossain, officer-in-charge of Chandpur Model Police Station, told The Daily Star, estimating that there were at least 1,000 people.
Cordoning off the law enforcers, the angry activists, later vandalised a policevan.

As the angry opposition activists kept on throwing brickbats, “the magistrate ordered us to open fire to bring the situation under control”, the OC said. 

Our correspondent, who also remaining stranded inside the cordon, reported that the opposition activists continued their attacks on the police though the latter stopped firing in the noon. 

Around 12:45pm, workers of Bangladesh Chhatra League, ruling Awami League’s student wing, joined the police to raise attack on the opposition activists. Fifteen minutes later, the opposition men started leaving the area.

Bullet-hit, Abul Mreedha, a rickshawpuller aged about 50 years, died on the spot. Limon Soiyal, another rickshawpuller aged about 25, and Mahfuzur Rahman, a 22-year-old activist of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, received bullet injuries. 

Rushed to Chandpur Sadar Hospital, Soiyal died later at 12:15pm, hospital medical sources said.
Mreedha used to live in Baburhat while Soiyal in Goakhola areas in Chandpur town.

Talking to The Daily Star, Amir Zafar, Chandpur assistant superintendent of police (ASP), said over 100 people, including 30 policemen, were injured during the clash.

Police said they opened fire at the order of Magistrate Shamimul Haq Pavel in self defence.

The clash spread to some other parts of Chandpur town. The opposition activists vandalised 15-20 vehicles, our correspondent reported.

Meantime, BCL activists later vandalised BNP office and the house of BNP district unit general secretary Farid Ali in the town.

As workers of BNP and its front organisations were preparing to bring out a procession from Trimohoni area around 11:00am, police rushed there and tried to stop them.
Angered at this, the opposition activists threw brick chips on the law enforcers. A chase and counter-chase took place for some time before the situation turned more violent.

Sensing danger, the law enforcers opened fire on the angry activists, leaving a Jubo Dal activist dead on the spot and four others injured.

Over 50, including 30 police, were injured during the clash.

The other bullet-hit persons – Abul Kashem, 50, Rabiul Hassan, 25, Javed, 18, and Nahid, 20, – and injured police sub-inspector Abul Bashar of Laxmipur Sadar Police Station, were rushed to Noakhali General Hospital.

Activists of the BNP, its front organisations and Jamaat-e-Islami held a rally at district BNP office near Jail intersection before they attempted to bring out a procession around 12:15pm
As police intercepted them when they tried to bring out a procession, the opposition activists pelted brickbats on the police.

Police charged batons to disperse them. Chase and counter-chase continued for a while before police fired at least 10 tear gas canisters and eight rubber bullets on the angry activists.

Police picked up at least five persons during the clash which left 25 injured, said Hasan Shamim Iqbal, OC of Dinajpur Kotwali Police Station.

Moinul Islam, Dinajpur superintendent of police, said police brought the situation under control around 1:15pm.

At least 20 people including the OC of Kurigram Sadar Police Station were injured and a police vehicle was damaged during clashes between law enforcers and BNP-Jamaat activists Sunday. 

Immediately after BNP and Jamaat activists brought out a procession around the noon from Old Post Office area in Kurigram, police tried to stop it from marching to the town streets. 

The processionists started pelting brick chips on the law enforcers and tried to put a police vehicle on fire.
But police reinforcement rushed to the scene and charged batons on the opposition activists, leaving some 20 people including five policemen hurt.

With injuries in their heads, OC Moinul Islam and driver of a police pick-up van constable Anjarul Islam were rushed to Kurigram Sadar Hospital. Anjarul was later referred to Rangpur Medical College Hospital.

Police charged batons on BNP activists when they brought out a procession in front of Rangamati municipality office at 11:00am.

Talking to The Daily Star, Rinku Chakma, secretary of indigenous affairs of Jubo Dal central committee, said three activists of Jatiyatabadi Sromik Dal were injured.
In the context of the authorities’ imposing ban on procession and rallies in five metropolitan cities including the capital amid fears of deterioration in law and order, the BNP decided Saturday night to go ahead with their mass procession in other districts on Sunday. 

Police and BNP activists locked into an altercation as police obstructed the BNP men while they tried to bring out a procession from in front of their office in Bandarban town around 11:00am, UNB adds.

At one stage, the BNP activists pelted stones at police, triggering a violent clash between the two sides, leaving 20 BNP men and 10 police personnel injured.

Police later charged batons and fired teargas shells to successfully disperse the angry BNP activists.
Police arrested at least 30 BNP activists after the incident.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

US Defense Chief Concerned About Pakistan's Treatment of Doctor

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says he is concerned about a Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. find al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Panetta told the CBS-TV program 60 Minutes, Shikal Afridi provided key intelligence that was "very helpful" in the successful May 2 Navy SEALs raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad.  Panetta's interview will be broadcast Sunday.

Pakistan has arrested Afridi, charging him with treason.  The doctor, who was working for U.S. intelligence, ran a vaccination program to collect DNA to verify bin Laden's presence in the compound.

Panetta says Pakistan's arrest of "somebody who was helping to go after terrorism" is a "real mistake." 

The U.S. defense secretary says he believes someone in authority in Pakistan knew where bin Laden was hiding. Panetta said there were intelligence reports of Pakistani military helicopters passing over bin Laden's compound, which was the largest one in the area and was surrounded by five-and-a-half-meter walls.

Panetta acknowledged he does not have any hard evidence Pakistan's government knew where bin Laden was, but his "personal view" is that "somebody, somewhere probably had that knowledge."

Fugitive Ishraq tells The Economist: Sk Hasina letting Bangladesh turn into Indian-run 'Bantustan'

Ishraq Ahmed, one of the men accused of leading the plot behind the foiled recent coup attempt, has said the present government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is letting Bangladesh be “turned into a Bantustan” run by India.

Speaking to influential London-based weekly The Economist, Ishraq, who is in hiding abroad, most likely Hong Kong, also denied religious extremism on either his part, or those arrested in connection with the attempt, while conceding they are his “friends”.

While there is no direct denial of any coup plot, in an apparent challenge to the government, Ishraq says the government “can show no troop movements, no guns, anything” as evidence to prove their claims.

Ishraq claims he and other like-minded “nationalists” are merely trying to oppose what they view as a “coup-by-stealth” by Sheikh Hasina, that is apparently turning Bangladesh into a vassal state for its giant neighbour.

In a clear attempt to distance himself from religious extremism, Ishraq revealed his “painstakingly collected” cellar of wines, Armagnacs and malt whiskies had been seized by the authorities.

In the article “Turbulent House”, published in the latest issue of The Economist that hit newsstands worldwide on Friday, Ishraq goes on to make many other claims consistent with the anti-India sentiments evident in some of the literature propagated by the alleged coup plotters via the internet, and leaflets distributed in the capital by their supporters.

Elaborating upon the presence and activities in Bangladesh of RAW, the Indian intelligence agency, Ishraq says for two years, they have had an office with the headquarters of Bangladeshi Intelligence- understood to mean the DGFI.

From this office, RAW has a “direct submarine cable for communications” with their Indian headquarters, Ishraq goes on to say.

He also accuses them of conducting electronic surveillance in the country, and kidnapping “suspects” from Bangladeshi cities.

In another claim echoing the literature distributed in the accused plotters’ defence, Ishraq blames Indian “prodding” for the government’s supposed crackdown on “anyone with beards”.

Any practicing Muslim is apparently vilified and “portrayed as Taliban”.

The Economist also spoke to Gowher Rizvi, adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, who rubbished almost all of Ishraq’s claims. 

Rizvi conceded that some individuals are arrested here and taken over the border for prosecution, but insisted they don’t include Bangladeshis. 

It is understood that he meant some leaders of the insurgencies in India’s north-eastern states, who had been hiding in Bangladesh.

Withdraw ban, counter-programme: Khaleda

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia called upon the government on Saturday to withdraw a ban on rallies and processions and cancel Awami League’s "counter-programme" for Sunday. 

The opposition leader came up with the call hours after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police imposed the 18-hour restriction from 6:00am on any kind of rallies and processions in the capital. 

She alleged that the ruling party planned its rally on the same day in a bid to thwart BNP’s mass processions in the city. 

The former premier made the comments while addressing the 19th National Conference of the diploma engineers in the city. 

Stating that peaceful and orderly demonstrations are the democratic rights of the people, she said the "failed government" has been detached from the people. 

She threatened the government to face dire repercussions if Sunday’s programme is obstructed. 

BNP has convened an emergency meeting of its national standing committee in the evening. 

Khaleda announced the mass processions from a grand rally in Chittagong on January 9 to mount pressure on the government for the reinstatement of the caretaker government system. 

DMP bans rallies, processions Sunday

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has imposed a ban on any kind of rally and procession in the capital for Sunday.

The restriction will remain in force for 18 hours since 6:00am, Additional Deputy Commissioner Masudur Rahman told The Daily Star.

Asked about the ban, Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker told The Daily Star that law enforcers will take actions against anyone who tries to destabilise the law and order.
The law enforcement agencies have been instructed to remain alert so that none could create any anarchy, he added. 

The police chief urged all the law-abiding people to refrain from any such activities which can hamper the security of lives and properties of the people. 

Replying to another question if there is any apprehension of subversive activities, the IGP replied in the negative saying, "We're prepared for any development."

He said necessary additional forces will be deployed and vigilant activities will be intensified in the capital so that none could take any scope to break the law. 

DMP Commissioner Benazir Ahmed has clamped the ban as ruling Awami League and main opposition BNP have called separate programmes in the capital on Sunday, police sources said.

The order issued by the DMP on Saturday also imposed ban on carrying sticks and bamboos on the city streets.

The announcement came on Saturday when BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia is set to lead mass processions in the city on Sunday aiming to drum up public support in favour of her demand for restoration of the caretaker government system.

Khaleda on January 9 declared this programme at a mammoth rally in Chittagong.

AL has also set Sunday for a rally in front of its party office at Bangabandhu Avenue.

The additional deputy commissioner said the DMP has decided to impose the restriction to avert clash between the two arch-rival parties.

As tension is prevailing centring the two programmes, BNP leaders have threatened the government to face dire consequences if it tries to obstruct their Sunday’s programme.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cocaine seized at UN headquarters

A bag containing 16kg (35.5lb) of cocaine was found at the United Nations headquarters in New York last week, police have said.

The drugs were in a bag printed with a version of the UN symbol which arrived at the organisation's mailroom, setting off a security alert.

Spokesman Paul Browne said they seemed to have been delivered by accident.
There was no name or address on the shipment sent from Mexico City through Cincinnati, he added.

The white bag raised suspicions when it was being scanned because a poor imitation of a UN logo had been stamped on it, apparently in an attempt to pass it off as official baggage.

Inside the bag, the drug was hidden in hollowed-out notebooks, UN undersecretary-general for safety and security, Gregory Starr, told reporters.

"In my humble opinion this was the work of narcotics traffickers that were trying to ship something into the United States and their plan must have gone wrong," Mr Starr was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told AP news agency that neither the UN nor anyone located at its headquarters was the intended recipient of the shipment.